A lot goes into creating a successful business website—but that is just the beginning. Web designers and developers must create sites that, once they are live, will show up in the right searches, attract and engage customers, and cause conversation. The following pro tips can help ensure your site is designed to succeed and will give users the kind of experiences that make them loyal brand advocates.
Create a Memorable Domain Name & Pick the Right Web Host
Finding the right name for your online brand—one incorporating a combination of SEO value, simple spelling, and clear brand identity―is crucial and fundamental. Easily found online businesses get more customers. It is that simple.
Finding the right web hosting service for your site is also crucial and depends on specifics of both the site and your business. For example: how much traffic will your site have in the short and long terms―does a potential hosting service offer scalability you can afford? Will your site feature a lot of video, images, and audio requiring extra bandwidth to ensure a smooth user experience? Will you be doing tech support and maintenance in-house, or will you need that from your service provider? Does your host offer backup and security, or additional features? What is your potential host’s reputation on social media and 3rd party site reviews?
Take Care of the Back End (Content Management Systems)
Just as underneath the sexy exterior of your sports car it is the powerful engine that drives things and makes the car special, for a web site the magic really happens in what is called its “back end.” Your site will not “wow” users unless it has strong backend services for editing, organizing, making changes, collecting, and dispensing information, e-commerce, backup, and other functions. Make sure your site has a good “engine,” such as Magento r WooCommerce for e-commerce or WordPress for content management.
Make Your Design Clean and Clear
A high-quality design is attractive and easy to read and use and should feature intuitive navigation. A clean design brings user focus to your brand and content instead of distractions and unnecessary complexity. There is a direct link between site design and user associations with product quality: bad design often leads users to think the products also bad. But a clean design provides a positive user experience and makes them want to come back and buy.
Choose the Right Color Scheme
We all know that color is tied to emotions. What is your company’s market niche, target audience, and existing brand, and how can they be served by elements of color theory? What colors will your target audience like and respond to? If your color scheme replicates your branding imagery and logo, is that overwhelming or pleasing? Do you want to convey relaxed and bright, or professional and calming? Make sure your site’s palette reflects the image you want to convey.
Use Consistent Branding
Professionally designed logos catch the eye and provide a clear and immediate impression of a brand’s character. Logos on your site should be readily visible: the best space for this is the upper left corners of pages for most web sites as that is where the eye in left-to-right reading countries is trained to begin. Of course, you should use the same logo across all platforms (printed material, video advertising, packaging, branded merchandise, etc.) to create a seamless brand presence.
Ensure Optimum Functionality
The website must, literally, function or users will be turned off―so always view your site from the user’s point of view. Are there glitches in loading, broken links, typos or updating mistakes, missing content? Are security features appropriate for the level of information they might be required to provide? Does it make users feel safe in providing that information? Are forms, surveys, messaging, and feedback sections of your site working properly?
Build User-friendly, Intuitive Navigation
A confusing navigation system is a sure way to lose users. Walk through your site’s navigation as a new user would—what makes sense and what does not? What is contradictory or confusing or unclear? One way to improve navigability (and help search engines read the site) is to include a site map: your site’s table of contents. It provides visitors and search browser with what they need to easily navigate the contents of your website. The site map should be regularly revised as you add new material. Google Webmaster Tools offers a handy tool for creating site maps.
A site that is easy to use attracts viewers. Make sure important information is available in clear, concise language. Make sure the site is as widely accessible as possible and allows opt-ins and brand information requests without extra steps or hunting for the right page. Is your contact information hard to find? Does the site layout encourage seamless connection to social media? The idea is to create a frictionless path to the place you want your viewers to go.
Include Calls to Action
A friendly call to action as basic as “Contact us today!” demonstrates that your business wants to develop a relationship with its customers, but it is important that such calls are appropriate to the user’s level of engagement with the brand. For new users, offer a subscription to your free email newsletter. For existing customers, suggest participating in a rewards program. A good rule of thumb is to include at least one call to action per page.
Make Sure Loading Times Are Short
Few things aggravate visitors—especially younger ones—more than slow-loading pages. Before the site launches, test loading times to find potential problem pages or content. Once the site is live, regular maintenance should include testing loading times to ensure a positive user experience that will foster customer retention. Be ruthless in streamlining navigation by eliminating redundant or under-performing pages or content to speed up load time and improve the user experience.
Create an Active Blog
Featuring a blog (or more than one) on your website is a good way to connect with users, keeping them informed about your products and events and industry-related information, or whatever is new and changing in your world. A blog can encourage readers to interact and offer feedback, another way to cement relations.
However, a blog requires regular updating and changing content, so make sure the time and resources exist to keep the blog timely and useful to site visitors, demonstrating your commitment to communication with your customers.
Create Clean, SEO-Friendly Code
You can increase your site’s page rankings in searches by improving your site’s code through its content management system (CMS). SEO-friendly code (see Search Engine Optimization) guides search engines to a clearer, quicker picture of your site’s content, making your site rank higher in searches. Certain CMS services such as WordPress provide plug-in tools to streamline the process of SEO coding that do not require professional coding expertise, making WordPress an especially good resource for smaller companies without trained coding staff.
Guarantee Multi-Browser Compatibility
Beyond Google Chrome, it is vital to ensure that your website loads cleanly and seamlessly on all major browsers, including older versions. Limited compatibility guarantees losing users and potential users.
Create Responsive Design Serving Mobile Devices
Recent studies show that approximately 95% of mobile device users search for products and services on those devices. It is clear that your business’s website needs to be accessible on any device. For a large company with an existing web presence, this might mean creating a separate, mobile-friendly website, but for smaller businesses and new sites, the best choice is a responsive site design that automatically adapts to any device.
Ensure Seamless Social Media Integration
Today, businesses lacking social media integration miss out on the contemporary version of one of advertising’s most traditionally powerful tools: word-of-mouth. Social media provide a venue in which customers do the selling by promoting your brand, offering reviews, and sharing company information. Use social sharing buttons on your site to allow the sharing of verbal and visual content, including product images and branded video, via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and others.
Utilize Captcha Tests
Businesses with feedback sections, forums, contact forms and other interactive components can be inundated with spam and bot responses. Use Captcha tests (forms requiring the typing of random letters and numbers before submitting a web-based form) to eliminate responses from spammers and bot programs and save your business time and money.
Build in Effective Security
As the headlines tell us daily, internet security is under increasing and constant attack. From malware and viruses to malicious apps and criminal and random hackers, your website needs to be protected from security breaches by customers and backend hacking. If your site includes e-commerce, you need strong security measures to safeguard customer in formation. For example, the use of SSL certificates on your web site reduces the threat of browser-based hacking. While developing your site, make sure security is a priority and build it into the site’s framework and design; and once launched, the site must be regularly monitored either internally or by an outside security provider.
Generate Offsite Reviews
In the search world, because of changes to Google’s search algorithm, greater priority has been placed on 3rd party reviews—today, those searching for a local business or product often pull up reviews as part of 1st page search results, and those reviews are linked to page rankings of search items. Your business’s search ranking can be boosted by 3rd party review (i.e., ones not on your site). To facilitate customer reviews, be sure to claim your business profile on review sites such as Yelp and Google. Your site can offer a call to action –“Write a review!” that will link to a 3rd party review service.
For example, Google offers the ability to link your Google Plus business page reviews to your website. As long as you have a qualifying address for your business and a Google+ account, and ownership is verified, you can search for your business page—or create one and link it to your site.
Use Customer Testimonials
A variation of word of mouth, testimonials are powerful advertising tools—take full advantage of them by featuring them on your site. If you have a loyal customer base, target some and solicit online reviews: if they are willing to provide a video testimonial, build a branded video around it. These are among the most powerful selling tools a business can use.
Use Google+ Author Verification
Make sure to complete the Google+ author verification for your site. Authenticating your site using Google+ Profiles allows the search engine to identify and weed out content from spammers or bots or other lower quality material in searches. Completing the Google+ author verification ensures that an author and a byline appear in search engine results (SERPs)—making the material more likely to be clicked on by users. In addition, claiming and using your brand’s byline in SERPs broadens and makes easier your connection with customers and other businesses.
Use Tracking to Evaluate Results
Take advantage of 24/7 web browser analytics such as Google Analytics and Bing Webmaster Tools to objectively calculate return on investment by monitoring traffic, engagement, and conversion rates to establish which marketing tactics work most effectively. These tools tell you why customers come, why they stay, and when and why they leave your site—invaluable information for shaping marketing and advertising strategies and developing or changing your web site.
Create Original Content
High quality, original content that features powerful keywords attracts users and high page rankings in search. Keyword research can provide topic ideas and specific keywords (if not used too often) that help users get to the content they want. Your content should be written in the voice best representing your brand: look for a minimum 150 words per page, with each page including links to resources and to other pages on your site. Remember that links to material off-site commonly mean the user leaves and will not return to your site. Make sure the writing is original duplicating (plagiarized) content can mean being removed from Google and other browser search results.
Take Advantage of Stock Images
As with writing, images are intellectual property and are governed by copyright laws. Be sure to get permissions for image use and pay any associated fees. The consequences of not doing include fines and legal action that are more expensive than paying a rights fee for legal use. Many web sites offer free images, but users should rigorously review the fine print concerning image use before posting on a web site.